Fara Williams has revealed the full extent of a kidney condition that has affected her fitness for nearly a year.
Williams, 37, admitted she should have waited until further into her recovery before returning to playing following a diagnosis of nephrotic syndrome.
Caused by an excess leak of protein from blood into urine, it can lead to swelling in the legs and ankles.
The Reading and England midfielder shared on Instagram how the symptoms first emerged following thigh surgery.
Despite the ongoing effects, Williams, who is England’s most-capped women’s international with 170 appearances and has played at three World Cups, has made 10 appearances this season for Reading.
She was admitted to accident and emergency during the initial stages before a kidney biopsy confirmed the diagnosis.
“My consultant had never encountered someone within sport with this condition until assisting me with my treatment,” Williams said.
“It’s been difficult to know what to do for the best – both for myself and Reading.”
The former Everton, Liverpool and Arsenal player, who joined Reading in 2017, was cleared to return to playing by anti-doping agencies while she required a strong dose of steroids for treatment.
But side-effects included her gaining weight, which subsequently affected her form and fitness.
“It’s important to be open and honest about the challenges I have faced,” she said.
“It’s also important to speak out and support each other now more than ever and I would encourage anyone experiencing similar difficulties, be it health or personal matters, to seek support.
“I’d like to thank my consultant and the medical and physio team at Reading, who have been instrumental in ensuring I have received the right care.
Williams also thanked her partner, family and friends for “their unconditional emotional support”.